Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Prunus americana

American plum, Wild plum

Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Prunus americana (American plum)
Smith, R.W.
A thicket-forming shrub or small tree with short trunk, many spreading branches, broad crown, showy large white flowers, and red plums. American plum is a small, understory tree to 35 ft. with fragrant, white flowers in showy, flat-topped clusters occuring before the leaves in spring. The fruit that follows ripens to a shiny, bright red in August or September. The short, crooked trunk with scaly, black bark supports a graceful, open crown. Fall foliage ranges from electric red to pale yellow.

The plums are eaten fresh and used in jellies and preserves, and are also consumed by many kinds of birds. Numerous cultivated varieties with improved fruit have been developed. A handsome ornamental with large flowers and relatively big fruit, American Plum is also grown for erosion control, spreading by root sprouts.

Image Gallery:

28 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Red
Size Class: 36-72 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AL , AZ , AR , CO , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , MT , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , NC , ND , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , UT , VT , VA , WV , WI , WY , DC
Canada: MB , ON , QC , SK
Native Distribution: S. NH to Man. & MT, s. to FL Panhandle, AR, KS & NM
Native Habitat: Woodland edges; stream banks; upland pastures

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist, rich, well-drained loams.


Use Wildlife: Plums are not a choice food for wildlife, but the plants provide valuable nesting cover and are a host to many butterflies.
Use Food: The fruits have tough, sour outer skins, but their sweet, juicy flesh is delicious, making excellent jams, jellies, preserves and pies. The plums can also be halved, then pitted and dried like prunes, spread in a thin sheet and dried as fruit leather. (Kershaw)
Warning: Plant has thorns or prickles. CAUTION: All parts of this tree, except the flesh and skin of the plums, contain the toxin hydrocyanic acid. (Kershaw)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes

Last Update: 2014-03-27